UN climate talks in limbo as rifts among countries remain


AP, Madrid :
Countries remained deadlocked Saturday in talks over combating climate change as U.N. talks dragged on beyond the official deadline with no end in sight.
Chile's environment minister, Carolina Schmidt, who is chairing the two-week talks in Madrid, urged officials from almost 200 countries to recognize the "overall balance" of the latest draft agreements hammered out overnight.
"We must show the outside world that we deliver," she said.
Environmental activists staged protests inside and around the venue during the talks, as they have around the world in the past year, to demand leaders take bolder action against global warming.
Many nations and observers said the latest draft agreements risked backtracking on existing commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate accord and didn't reflect the urgent warnings from scientists that greenhouse gas emissions need to fall sharply, and soon.
"If this text is accepted, the low ambition coalition will have won the day," said David Waskow of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think tank.
Among the issues at stake are aid for poor countries suffering the impacts of climate change and efforts to agree rules for international markets to trade carbon emissions vouchers.
Schmidt said that the latest drafts attempt to provide "a sensible and workable solution" on carbon markets.
Scientists have amassed a mountain of evidence pointing to even more dire impacts on the near horizon, while millions of youth activists are holding weekly strikes demanding government action.
Sixteen-year-old activist Greta Thunberg led student marchers in Turin, Italy Friday, and chastised world leaders for acting "as if there is no tomorrow".
Briefing journalists as talks sailed past their provisional deadline, host Chile's coordinator Andres Landerretche admitted "the eyes of the people are on us".
"We must show the world that we are capable of delivering the agreements that are needed to tackle the unprecedented challenge before us," he said.
As pressure inside and outside the talks mounted however, old splits between rich polluters and developing nations re-emerged over who should slash greenhouse gas emissions by how much, and how to pay the trillions needed to live in a climate-addled world.
Newer fissures, meanwhile, between poor, climate-vulnerable nations and emerging giants such as China and India - the world's No.1 and No.4 emitters - also blocked progress.
The narrow aim of the Madrid negotiations is to finalise the rulebook for the 2015 Paris climate accord, which enjoins nations to limit global temperature rises to "well below" two degrees Celsius.
Earth has already warmed 1C, and is on track to heat up another two or three degrees by 2100.
But "raising ambition" on emissions remains the overarching goal in Madrid and especially next year, when Glasgow will host the last climate summit before the Paris treaty becomes operational.
The draft Madrid agreement under negotiation, which must be approved by consensus, lays out two options.
The first - favoured by nations reluctant to enhance their targets in the short term, including the US, India, China and Saudi Arabia - simply repeats language in the 2015 treaty.
But a group of more than 80 poor and climate-vulnerable nations backed by the European Union are insisting on a stronger commitment from all.
"(We) will not walk away without a clear call for all countries to enhance their ambitions," said Marshall Islands climate envoy Tina Stege.